Monday, December 7, 2015

Portland Timbers win MLS Cup in Columbus Ohio 12-6-15

Timbers are victorious in 2-1 final against the Columbus Crew, winners of the Eastern Conference and considered to be one of the most balanced and dangerous teams in the league.   I don't have any brilliant insights into this match which won't be written about by hundreds of others.  My reason for writing this post is simply to commemorate the moment--a long time coming for many many people who have been in the stands over the forty years since that first match in 1975.

That year,  the team marched from a June loss at home in the rain against the Seattle Sounders to take the Western Division title with a one game lead over the Sounders at the end of the season.  Post season pitted the teams again,  and 'the lads' in green won 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Tony Betts, a crowd favorite, cut in the mold of Will Johnson.  Ticket sales for the playoff games skyrocketed as high as 33,000 and the local press marveled at the site of people sleeping out in a queue at Civic Stadium to get their tickets,  particularly to the St. Louis Stars semifinal match which was decided on a goal by "the Wizard of Nod" Peter Withe.   The wins put the Timbers into the NASL Championship which was played in San Jose against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.   Sadly,  the Timbers lost that August 1975 match 0-2.

Since then, despite various iterations of the club and team through subsequent years,  there has not been a Championship.  Until today.

Several things shine out for me.   I watched the match today with two of my own longtime teammates and their spouses,  with my youngest son and his son.   None of that might have happened were it not for the Timbers from forty years past because I think none of us knew diddly about the game called soccer. Because of the Timbers,  I began to explore the skills and strategies of the game.  I was 25 years old, not an athlete,  somewhat opposed to jocks and jock culture.   I got a soccer ball and started going to a nearby park with a tennis court and practicing passing and trapping,   with both feet because that's what I heard the Timbers' coach say was important.   I didn't know anyone who played soccer.    In  June 1977,  I got an invite to show up for a 'soccer jamboree' at Delta Park which would lead to a recreational, Portland Parks summer league for people who were interested in the game.  I found myself on a team for the summer which morphed into a men's league team in the fall.   SJO Irregulars,  sponsored by Seton Johnson & Odell became the foundation for FC77, a club which has been fielding men's teams in a range of divisions for 38 years.   And most of those men, probably would not be playing soccer if it were not for the '75 Timbers.

Notable things about this legendary win by the Timbers. Diego Valeri's pressuring run on the keeper is the only time I can recall such a result.  I've seen keepers strike the ball into an onrushing attacker and give up a goal,  but never much a surgical 'no' as Valeri delivered.   This goal will be viewed on YouTube for decades.    The second goal by the Timbers clearly started from a ball that was in touch but neither the linesman nor the center registered that fact and when it was clear that there was no whistle,  Portland played forward,  catching Columbus flatfooted and leading to Wallace's goal.   Okay I get that it's 'not fair' but the primary axiom of the game is 'play the whistle'.   The Kamara goal that followed might have involved interference with the keeper but perhaps not.

The reality is that in the rest of the match, despite Columbus discipline and control,  the Timbers were the more dangerous side.  And if officiating were to be raised as an issue,  the clear handball on the goal line by Parkhurst--arm in unnatural position and looking at the ball as he deflects it,  should balance out the ball in touch in the first half.   The Timbers had two shots on the post, and Borchers' shot into the ground saved by Steve Clark's thighs speak to the effectiveness of the Timbers' attack.

The Boys deserved this win.  They scrapped and played hard and earned it.  And in my mind,  they are a team just finding their form.   So I am hoping, deeply, that the club sees this group of players  as the core for the future and looks to their potential growth as a squad.   These Timbers are worthy of everything dreamed of through the past four decades.

"We're gonna do what they say can't be done!"   Timbers Army.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Darlington Nagbe's MNT debut

Our Portland Timber attacking dynamo, Darlington Nagbe,  was called up to the US Men's National Team for a qualifying match against St. Vincent & the Grenadines.   Nagbe was called to play in the 64th minute along with another player.   review of the game's flow showed that he acquitted himself well, passing accurately,  moving off the ball to create opportunities and occasionally turning to the attack, at one point cracking off a strong shot.  

Notable to me was that Nagbe's workmanlike performance on the field in that short period of time involved precise passing,  intuitive movement off the ball,  and a defensive effort to break down counter attacks when the opponent picked up the ball.  I thought that Nagbe was stellar at showing he could play that role throughout his twenty-some minutes of play.   He made few mistakes and showed a clear understanding of the USMNT system despite its differences from his play with the Portland Timbers.

Nagbe is one of the most talented players over the ball in the MLS...and maybe elsewhere.  The typical response from opponents is to take him down and draw a soft foul.  This may be one of the weak points of the game---that a low consequence foul, say pushing the player to the ground,  doesn't cost the offending team much but nullifies the talent and skill of the player fouled.   I hope this isn't the direction the game is headed.

Nagbe deserves the call up.  He's a quality attacking player.  He's effective if he's used in a system that understands his strengths.  He will be a legendary player if he can be protected from the cynical fouls that are so common in MLS.

My hope is that he remains healthy and that he stays with Portland.   I think he's one of the best players I've seen---just needs some help against the thugs.

Portland Timbers first MLS playoff match: eliminating SKC in PKs.

Anyone who follows futbol passionately treasures their short list of legendary matches, generally matches attended in person.  And the game provides a limitless list of competitive moments, in small or large venues, where the passion was intense, the stakes were high, and the goddess, Fortune, put her hand on the scale more than once to tip the outcome. 

The first playoff match for the MLS Portland Timbers kicked contending matches aside as the team battled through 120 minutes of field play and eleven rounds of penalty kicks to finally take the win when keeper, Adam Kwarasey ,stopped opposing keeper, Jon Kempin, with a  great save after making his own statement by bending the net with a strong shot.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Old Nicks v Pierres 9-12-15

On Saturday, September 12,  Old Nicks opened our fall season with a match against Pierre's, the perennial champions of the division we share in Portland's men's league, the GPSD.  This was a particularly notable moment because Old Nicks had won the O58 Summer League and championship game.  Pierre's never plays in Summer Leagues and so we'd won without having to face them. 

Pierre's is a classic select team carefully assembled over the years by Tony Ryan, a canny footballer with an eye to enjoying the game as a winner even when he's had to watch from the sidelines.   In our age group,  Pierre's has always been a strong team because the players have long played soccer,  have trained together for years, have been coached to a unified style of play, and in most instances are natural athletes.  Despite the fact that we've been beaten by them over and over through the years,  we have admired them for their style and commitment. 

Over the years since the Millennium  we have only had a single match in which we were able to eke out the win.  At the January King Cup Tournament in Las Vegas (held the weekend of Martin Luther King Day) 2002, our motley crew in its second tournament appearance faced off against Pierre's in a night game and beat them on a high lob from Jim Brinkman.  The win has been part of our team mythos for a dozen years since.  We did beat Pierre's that one time, but in league play, they've been unstoppable.   

Our strategy, strongly urged by Jack Stigler who has played with both teams, has been to initiate a regular team practice,  to drill on basics,  and to work on getting so familiar with each others' play that we are comfortable on the field.  "If I pass to this guy, he'll do this."   We were feeling confident from our steadily increasing team play in the summer result but were also keenly aware we'd won it without having to face Pierre's.

At noon on the newly created turf field at Delta 5 the players drifted in, preparing for the match.  Though it was an autumn day,  the temperature was warm and the sun was bright.  No Oregon overcast.   Old Nicks faced a dilemma.  We had enough players to take the field, but our goalkeeper wasn't available.  In Summer season we'd won using six different goalkeepers.   In addition,  we had half a dozen players out injured or on various forms of family trips. The biggest challenge of the oldest division may be that the players are all at an age when they want to do what they want to do--and on a given weekend that may not be soccer.

The other and beneficent side of the coin is that all the older players know each other and are willing to step in and fill a void for guys they like on a weekend where they are not opponents.   So it was that the Nicks' were augmented by Tom Wolfe in goal, Roddy Coles in defense and Greg Anderson as a rover.  All three had played for their own team, Masterbooters, just prior to our match and had agreed to hang over with us.

The match began as they so often have with Pierres kicking off and trying to organize an attack.  Only minutes into the game,  it was clear that something different was happening. Old Nicks players were pressuring the Pierres attack and disrupting it.  Old Nicks forced Pierres to cough up the ball and then began their own attack.  Repeatedly,  the Nicks' pressure forced turnovers and as the moments clicked by, Old Nicks began to counter, distributing the ball across the pitch. 

Rocky and Jeff supported by good midfield play, made a concerted give-go-gone passing sequence which led to Rock putting the ball in the net.Not many minutes later,  another rush at Pierre's goal produced a second goal.  Nicks' players had to ratchet down their exuberance knowing that Pierre's was capable of storming back.   

Then Nicks, pressing hard, won a corner kick.   Glenn took the cross which sailed in high, was cleared but straight to Kim Bergenser who sent a rocket into the net.   The halftime score ended 0-3.   

We did not know what to do with such a situation.  Not only had we never scored three goals against Pierre's, we couldn't recall who else could have.  But we knew that this was a most dangerous situation.  They had 45 minutes to correct all their mistakes and win the match. 

As it happened, they almost achieved that goal.  They muscled their way to a first goal, Reggie using sheer physicality to get through and take the shot.  Shortly after,  they earned a PK which was finished precisely against our gimpy keeper. And then, late in the second half,  a blooper of a shot from the outer left side of the box into the top right corner put the game outcome in question.  

Not because Nicks had been taken out of the game by any means.  We'd had attacking runs into their end and had not been able to convert.  Balls had hit the crossbar and the post more than once.  The decisive moment came when Jeff Heilman was able to beat their defender and paste the ball into the net in a perfectly timed run.  The tally was 4-3 Nicks.

That was the final result.  We'd broken a long string of losses.  We'd played together as a team and had shown that we could play the beautiful game when we were at our best. Most importantly,  Tony and a substantial cadre of Pierre's joined us for beer after,  and acknowledged our win as well as asserting their intention that we not make a habit of it.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

FC77 Old Nicks win Portland's O58 Championship

Championship matches have a special flavor. Regardless of the level of competition, the allure of being a champion trumps many other emotions. FC77 Old Nicks have toiled in workmanlike fashion through the O50s and the formative years of the O58.  A substantial number of our players have committed to weekly practices---basic skills, scrimmaging and building fitness and familiarity.  The work has paid off.   Increasingly,  our guys have been able to play to our strength as a team--not to feed the ball over and over to the strongest players but to mix that up with simple basic play.  Triangles.  Solid traps, Accurate passes. Movement away from the ball.  Each player being aware of what they might do to support the play.  And increasingly,  our results in matches have improved.   We haven't won dozens more games over the period of this transformation, but we have had games that were close in which our play measured more closely to 'the game' than it has in past years.

This Spring/Summer season, Old Nicks took to the field with our usual optimism but an additional feeling of gritty resolution.   We'd played the short winter season and felt we'd played well in most of our matches but had not been able to pull off a win. The only game where we were not close was the last one against Pierre's, a 904 loss.  We were frustrated.  We thought we should do better. 
FC77 Old Nicks- O58 League Champions  Spring 2015

The biggest challenge we faced, in my estimation was our own focus--our sense that we weren't just taking to the field to have a good time, but that we had a common purpose,  a desire to demonstrate that we had learned something of value in all our work in the winter gyms and that we could translate that into something stronger than just camaraderie---into performance. That feeling of intensity carried us into an opening run in March and April knocking out a tie and two wins, one of them against Royals-the strongest team in the pool.  At the end of the month, however, we unraveled against Master Booters giving up a 0-3 result. In May, despite the long stretches between games,  we beat our sister team, FC77 GE and routed Rodders who were shorthanded by four goals.    In June we eked out a second tie against Widmer and another against Royals.  The season finished with wins against Booters and FC77 GE.  The latter played courageously shorthanded rather than taking a forfeit and playing a friendly.   Some thought that GE should have had a tie on a shot that appeared to go into goal.  
The result placed us at the top of the table with Royals right behind.  A 'championship' game  was scheduled for July 11 at Gladstone and Nicks prevailed against Royals on a late goal.  Anatole Farci placed a lovely free kick into the scrum where Jeff Heilman flicked it home.  By all accounts it was a deserved result.  

All of this was accomplished in a season in which we had six goalkeepers in ten games.  Jim Chan, Tom Wolfe, Greg Anderson, Bruce Barclay, Randy Provine and Mike Calder all took turns in the hole.   I think it's a tribute to the reputation of Old Nicks that so many people were willing to step in to help.  And we got great service from each of them.  The championship season was built with the contributions of more than the ordinary group of players. 

Where does Old Nicks go from here?  We have our eyes on being ever better at playing successfully as a team.  And we keep working it.  And we will get better.   Regardless of the results on the table,  when we play together as we are capable of, we are champions. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Old Nicks waits two decades for a Championship

This coming Saturday, July 11th, 2015, FC77 Old Nicks ,an aging men's soccer team in the O58 Division of the Greater Portland Soccer District,  will step onto the field against Royals, longtime rivals and friends,  to play for the championship of the division.  Old Nicks uncharacteristically played through the Spring/Summer season with a strong 6-1-3 record to beat the Royals by the margin of one win and three points.   The championship match, an opportunity to double the glory or share it, is the first Old Nicks has played in since the Winter Season of 1996/97 when we played at Powerlines and lost,  taking 2nd place.  

On the pitch that day as seen in this photo are John Mayfield, Rock Courter, Dr. Brian Kendregan, Tom Hampson, David Porter, Gary Stoner, and Mark Dillon.  In the back row are Glenn Fithian-Barrett, Mark Siebert, Tim Gero, Steve Pinger, Jim Brinkman, Richard Black, Lyle McBride and the Uber-Defender David Vincent.  It's worthy of note that there's no goalkeeper in the picture...Rock recalls that Dr. Don, our Zimbabwean goalkeeper,  went to SE 185th looking for the field and that I had to play in goal as a result.   And long time Nicks like Al Gerritsen Jim Hilliker and Jack Hevel are not present either.   Some of those players were playing with our sister team FC77 Newcastle back then.  As players aged, the range of FC77 club teams provided a place for players to continue on the pitch. 

Old Nicks' success this season has been building for a long while.  Several years ago, Jack Stigler and other players suggested that we'd benefit from having a team practice where we actually got to play together and to practice and drill.  In winter season,  players shelled out money to rent the gym at Lot Whitcomb Middle School and later at Milwaukie Elementary,  so we had a place to work on skills. In the summer,  players who could banded together at the Reed College Field,  the Lot Whitcomb back meadow,  and other spaces--always with the idea of building our ability to do the simple trap, pass, and move elements of the game.   A core of fourteen or fifteen guys paid for the privilege and showed up when they could.   The team got stronger.   

In the last game of the 2014 Winter Season  it was clear that Old Nicks were sorting ourselves out and really beginning to play with some joy.  We finished that season with a 2-4-4 record but a confidence that we were stronger and more organized on the field than the table showed.   In the short five game winter season,  we didn't do well, but we still felt that our play was stronger.  

So here we are, some of us thirty-seven years playing together.   The Spring-Summer season unfolds and we finish the ten matches with just one loss.  Time to get a new "team photo".  Although with 24 guys on the roster,  it's tough to get everyone together at the same time.   That said, here's a sampler of Old Nicks in recent years. 

One experience that bonds the Nicks together is the Bier Wagen,  a miraculous font of post game insight provided by Glenn, the brau meister.  

We plays where we plays as long as we can go to the Bier Wagen after.

The roster of the Nicks has evolved over the years 
Fall Season 2011 

Fall Season 2004

 The black jerseys.  Styling!

Delta Park= Strasser Field

Today's Old Nicks

Back Row- Dr Makande, Lyle Mcbride, Steve Pinger, Patrick Marcinko, Rich Black, Glenn Fithian Barrett, Jim Hilliker, Roy Thompson, Bruce Barclay
Front Row- David Porter, Rock Courter, Anatole Farci, Geoffrey Pagen, John Mayfield, Mike Calder, Patrick McCormick, Jack Hevel, Al Gerritsen, Jim Brinkman.
Not Pictured- Tim Leslie, Jeff Heilman, Kim Bergenser, Jack Stigler

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

No Glory. No Joy.

Tonight in Tukwila Washington,  the Seattle Sounders hosted the Portland Timbers in what promised as always to be a scrappy match.  The game,  the only Lamar Hunt Cup fourth round match pitting MLS teams against each other,  came in the midst of intense league play with Portland rising toward the top of the table with three wins in a row and Seattle solidly atop the division with 29 points and a game in hand on the 'Caps giving them an effective two win cushion.   

The first half was a workmanlike effort by each side not to give up anything which meant at the same time, neither achieved very much.   The second half changed all that with an early tally by Valeri off a Wallace cross--Timbers in form.  The situation looked even brighter when Brad Evans took a second yellow and was ejected from the match,  leaving the Sounders short a player.  However, close to eighty minutes in,  Martins stuck a crossing ball from a corner in to tie the match.  Not much later,  Martins was carted from the field with an injury that saw him leave on a gurney.  Seattle had used their subs and so the Sounders were down two players.

The Cup competition demands a winner. And no mercy is shown in this sport. So at 90 minutes plus stoppage time plus a short break,  the teams took again to the field and the 9 man side ratcheted up their intensity and played hard....very hard.  As the clock slowly headed to 105 and the Sounders looked hard for the grit to continue fighting,   Wallace broke through for the Timbers and put the second goal past Troy Perkins.  (How ironic that it would be another of the Timbers' former goalkeepers facing off in this match).   With the end of the first half of extra time nearing,  Seattle's Azira was red carded for an elbow and in a short sequel,  Clint Dempsey was red carded for protesting the call.  The Sounders started the last fifteen minute stretch of extra time down a goal and down four players.  

I've never seen this happen before. The ejection of Evans I have no sympathy for.  The injury to Martins after Seattle had made all its subs is sad, but bad luck.   The ejection of two more players made the ending of the game grim.  There is no joy in beating the tar out of an opponent with four men missing.  The Timbers did score a third goal in that second half but it seemed as if their efforts to just hold the ball and grind out the time were fitful and confused.   Athletes don't train to play against crippled foes and when the moment comes the quality of play drops substantially.   

In years to come,  the match will be remembered for its astonishing officiating.  I am hopeful that Portland fans will thank their stars that we got a win but will be mindful that it wasn't against a Sounders' side with all its capabilities.  In Seattle,  I am guessing that this will be remembered as a black mark in the rivalry between our clubs--despite the fact that the Timbers didn't cause any of the cards or injuries.   This is one to be glad for-- glad that we got through and didn't lose any important players,  but not one to celebrate.  

We'll step onto that field against the Sounders again,  and we want to be sure that the bitter taste of this match doesn't give them the edge next time.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Timbers bring Revolutions to a halt.

Saturday night, was a nail-biter but the gutsy Portland Timbers brought home the win after scrapping for it through 90 minutes. 

I think the two goals Adi scored reflect the problem with our attack.  Most of the time we’re positioning him up top to gather long balls out of the back against big defenders—just as we did with Alan Gordon, Boyd and Piquionne.   I’m no expert but I think this is a wasted strategy except as an alternative—rarely used—to keep defenders from being complacent.   What happened with both goals this last game was that balls were delivered into spaces Adi could run into and actually redirect.  He’s not a long ball target player—he’s more of a slice and dice run through the defense at angles player.    

He has not shown the ability to jump high or muscle the ball against intense defensive pressure—but he’s done well with running the angles inside the box—we just need to deliver more balls that way if we keep him.   I agree that he doesn’t seem the natural strong forward we need.—if he’s gone I won’t be surprised.    

That being said,  Nate Borchers is tall but no jumper.  Ridgewell’s better. Powell is the best of the three.  Asprilla is a great jumper—I’m very sorry he’s injured.

What no one has talked about in this thread is that SeƱor Diego Chara ran the turf ragged in the last game— he was defensive,  he was distributing,  he was attacking the defense,  he was stripping the ball from opponents.  This hombre is an awesome player—very awesome—and I don’t think we’d have won without him.  I’m continually surprised that he doesn’t get more recognition.  A national team call up?   An all star slot?  

There were many good performances on Saturday night but Chara was outstanding.

I think the Timbers are beginning to believe their juju.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

US v Netherlands

Men's team break through and defeat Holland despite being down at the start.   And the heroes of the match weren't so much the familiar nor the famous.   Clint Dempsey was not there.   What a grand achievement!  Can this be the start of a truly competitive US squad?  I hope so.   I think Jurgen has been brilliant in recognizing that there is a much bigger pool of US players who could be our future champions and opening the opportunities.   I can't wait to see where we go.   Deutschland up next!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders….again

Last night's match in Seattle between the Sounders and the Timbers was 90 plus minutes of full on stress.  I could recap a play-by-play but other commentators have already done a better job---probably with video links.  I don't have much to offer here except emotional responses.   I thought our crew played really well and showed poise and unity against one of the best sides in MLS.  We were mature enough to hold the ball and demonstrate patience.  Some rough edges came when younger and newer players--Ishmael Yarty and Dairon Asprilla-- were either not quite in the flow or held the ball a little long and were shut down.  On the other hand, each of those players showed passion and created good chances.  And it was not as if Seattle was hitting on all cylinders--their passes went astray too.  

The game was physical and happily there were no terrible injuries.  Alonso's assault on Nagbe early in the game had all the sophistication of an assassin driving a garbage truck.  "Oh, did I run you over?".   

Our crew had their chances--Adi's shot off the bar could have been the decisive one.  And there were others.  I'm still not quite sure what the solution is….as if I could say that after all.
Nagbe had an immense impact on the game, particularly in the first half.   If there were more consistent penalties for using him as a punching bag, he'd be more effective.   We had some beautiful attacking teamwork when he wasn't just knocked down. Chara as always was a bulldog loose amongst the attackers and he even took an opportunistic shot, a good sign.  We were getting more players into the attack.  

So at the end of it all,  I am saddened for the loss but pleased that the team played so well in the circumstance.   I think we're close….really close.  Valeri and Johnson returning will make a difference.   'Caps match at home is on the horizon.    We've got enough games ahead to get back in the swim.   

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

CONCACAF Champions League

Over the years there has been little joy in the Champions League for MLS contenders. I haven't followed the competition closely but I've always believed that it represents a measure of how the professional game in the US and Canada is advancing.   The current final pits the Montreal Impact against Club America.   Tonight the Canadiens eked out a tie in Stadia Azteca, only giving up the win on a shot by Peralta in the 89th minute.   The Cup will be decided in a match at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.   

When all is said and done,  I ponder why the MLS has not shown more success in this competition.  Equally,  I ponder how it is that the MLS side to advance so far into this competition is at the bottom of the table in League play.   They were heroic in the match tonight.  Evan Bush deserves a shout out for extraordinary play to hold the tie.

And I can't help but note the Portland Timbers' alumni.  Kenny Cooper and Eric Alexandar are doing their best in Montreal this time around. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

CONCACAEF Champions League

The marquee MLS teams may not be in the hunt for this trophy at the moment,  but there's no question that this bit o' bling is fiercely sought.   The matches this week were hard fought and attended by thousands of passionate fans.   America was upset by Herediano in a fierce contest.   And the Montreal Impact picked up a win in the first leg of their semi-final match.  I'd love to see the Timbers move up that chain.  To be tested in the broader world of futbol and to succeed is where a club's legacy begins to have true gold.   

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Alan Gordon? What?

Tonight's match between the Timbers and the Galaxy provided rich terrain for commentary and as many sparks of excitement as you'd get running a knife blade over steel in a bad thriller.  I have deeply mixed feelings about what I saw tonight. 

Perspective number one.  The Portland Timbers playing without their midfield magician, Diego Valeri, not to mention Will Johnson,  took their game to the MLS Champions and forced them to wring out a draw in the very last seconds of the match.  Robbie Keane, perhaps the most dangerous forward in MLS, did not have much impact on this match.   

Perspective number two.  We've played two matches into the new season and we've pulled out two ties.  A year ago, we were at the same place in the standings.  In the match tonight, the team played aggressively and were organized against the best in the League.  The first goal by Adi was a beauty coming off the brilliant set up---Nagbe's backheel and Wallace's great run and perfectly timed pass to the streaking #9.    On the other hand Gyasi Zardes' run to the near post to finish the Galaxy's first goal looked like a replay of some most dangerous moments last year.  Borchers was covering in front of Zardes' run and Ridgewell was two yards off the space Zardes ran into--neither picked him up as he came through.   And thus, a goal given. 

Perspective number three.  Darlington Nagbe's individual effort several times in the game but clearly when he fought his way into the goal box and fed Adi for the second goal demonstrate what great capacity this team has.  I think Nagbe is both hero and tragic figure.  He does all he can and his excellence is rewarded by being subjected to thuggery.  I think the game is demeaned because there is not a remedy to the repeated 'soft fouls' that just take the player down, no malice to speak of.   The game is demeaned as a result.  

Perspective number four.   Alan Gordon had a wonderful season with the Timbers about ten years back. Scored well and was an upbeat and effective  forward.  We liked him.   Coming on for LA late tonight, though,  Gordon has been producing about one goal every three matches on average.  Not bad but not stellar.   To have him enter the game late and pull out the tying header in the dying seconds of the game is painful.   I watched it happen live and have looked at the replays and am at a loss to give some explanation to giving up the tie.   Perhaps it was the Roman curse,  the "Ides of March",  for which there is no explanation, only fate.  Amended comment: Gordo Time is apparently a phenomenon that trumps the Ides of March. 

I don't like that answer.  I'm looking forward to seeing the team break out of last year's pattern with our next game.   We've faced down two very good opponents and now it's time to show where we're headed.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finders Keepers. The Forty Years.

I watched the MLS highlights late on Sunday night and was somewhat astonished to see the two newest MLS teams--Orlando and New New York-- facing off with two past Portland Timber stars playing in the hole.   Josh Saunders whose name once echoed from the Army sections at every game opened for New York FC and struck his head on the left post making a save.  The crash ignited a discussion about head injury risks.  Saunders played on.  At the other end of the pitch was Donovan Ricketts who had anchored the Timbers' defense through last season but who was snagged by Orlando FC when the Timbers did not protect his contract.   The subsequent tie between the two teams in their first ever matches was no surprise.

As the years go by, the number of players and others who made notable contributions in the decades through which Portland Timbers have been competing increases steadily.   The legendary like Clive are well-remembered and deservedly so.  Jimmy ConwayMick Poole, the list goes on and continues to get longer.   Fadi Afash?  Byron Alvarez?  Many players and others deserve remembering as the people who kept the Portland Timbers idea alive so that there could be a 40 year PTFC.   Art Dixon, Scott Benedetti, Brent Goulet.   There are hundreds who have been passionate about Portland Timbers Soccer---making sacrifices to be soccer players when there was no glory and few rewards.  

As we march on, the numbers will swell and sometime there will be enough Portland Timbers to fill the stadium even without fans.  I am grateful that I've had a chance to sit in on some parts of those four decades.   And I am excited to see what the endurance and passion of those past people has given us--a football club deeply rooted in the community and in a vision of what futbol symbolizes to that community.  Portland Timbers.  A grand adventure that has gone silent at times, but has never died. I expect to be there when I'm 85.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What comes of not keeping up with Timbers' scuttlebutt!

At the Simple Invitational match between the Whitecaps and the Timbers last night,  I looked out in the second half and saw the #11 jersey.  "Hey", I said to my friend Mark,  "when did Kalif sub in? "  He looked at me pityingly and said "Kalif's no longer a Timber.  He's gone."  And my response was surprise.   I liked Kalif and wished very much that he'd found his form with the Timbers.  I remember first seeing him as a new acquisition and being impressed by his dazzling foot skills.  I also remember him being knocked about in league play.   It wasn't until last season, I thought,  that he really had found enough physicality to hold his own and begin to re-exhibit some of the flare he'd shown in that first appearance. 
My other thought was how busy life has been since the end of the last season.  I've had little time to connect with what was happening with the team-- work, aging parents, adult children, grandkids.  Life is a blur.   And I'm looking forward to stepping out of that world occasionally to savor the next adventures of the Timbers, my team.  I'll miss Kalif out on the field but I hope that wherever he lands he's able to make his mark.   And one day we'll say, "oh yeah, I remember when he was just a kid and joined the Timbers.".